Consider some of the social uses. “I was literally scared to death,” except you did not die. “I literally had the time of my life,” except you could probably think of other times of your life that equate or top that experience. “This is literally the coolest thing you will ever see in your life,” which is highly subjective since you’re life hasn’t ended.
In the academic world, Dimitri Rotov is tired of reading how the American Civil War pitted “brother against brother literally.” Why is he frustrated? When you state that the war pitted brother against brother, you do not need to add literally. “Brother against brother” means just that.
In journalism, it appears too. Consider an opinion piece in The New York Times from June 24, 1945. In it, W. H. Lawrence uses “literally” multiple times. He tells us, “No country can win a war when it loses pilots and planes literally by the thousands in a vain effort to knock out the naval craft supporting and supplying a ground operation.” It is a good thing he clarified that “by the thousands” was not some kind of metaphor. In the next paragraph, he states, “Considered carefully, the fact that literally thousands of men . . . will go out alone on missions of certain death . . .” Again, why does he feel the need to let us know that he is literal in the use of the word “thousands”? The piece uses literally several more times and it was unnecessary.
One blogger is convinced that the word has become the new “like,” it makes people think you are lying, and it stifles creativity. He is right and for all those reasons, you should stop using literally.
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor
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